Key Winter Tips for Pet Owners

November 21, 2016

Dog and Cat in SnowEvery cat and dog is different. Snow might be fun, or they might turn right back around into the house (some cats may be unable to decide, and go back and forth!). Whether your pets are older, younger, outdoor adventurers or home bodies, there are winter safety tips that can keep pets safe, happy, and comfortable all winter long.

First, don’t make assumptions about how well your pet’s coat works.

Only a few breeds have coats that will let them spend extended time outdoors (and even then they still need a warm dry shelter; and blankets may sap heat more than provide it). Being well groomed (no matted coats) helps. A better rule of thumb is that if you are starting to feel cold and ready to go in, your pet is, too. When your pet stops playing, it’s time to come in.

Some popular breeds/mixed breeds need a little more help, since they have coats made for warm, always temperate climates. Dog-coats aren’t just a frivolous fashion accessory, some fluff-balls need them before going outdoors.

You can extend time outdoors by going out during the hottest times of days (it’s good for you, too, since Vitamin D levels are boosted by sun exposure!).

Headed on a walk? Help pets watch out for pitfalls like frozen lakes, and make sure they don’t lick salt off their paws. When you go in, clean paws from ice chunks and salt to help avoid dry, flaky skin. A layer of petroleum (since it’s not natural and won’t absorb into skin) can help protect paws, or you can invest in boots (which saves you time and effort).

If your outdoor pets start to get flaky skin, you can use a bit of coconut oil. Make sure their diet has some oil/fats for skin health, too. Firm, waxy skin and blisters are a sign of frostbite, so make sure you’re keeping track of pets’ skin health. Keep pets dry to help reduce some skin/cold risks.

Older pets are at greater risk indoors, and out. Poor circulation and joint aches/arthritis are exacerbated by the cold, even if it’s just a cold floor in your house. Watch pets outside for signs of lethargy, joint stiffness, and make sure they have warm bedding in their favorite indoor spot.

Vets want you to beware of indoor heaters, which can cause burns. Both dogs and cats will look or places to warm themselves, and can get burned. If you park outdoors (or let your pets into your garage) tap the hood of your car for any outdoor cats looking for a little warmth.

Another big risk is antifreeze, which is sweet tasting and deadly in small amounts. Keep it out of reach of pets and clean up any spills.

Should you feed pets more? Only if they’re young and active outside. Many pets (especially older pets) can get lethargic in winter, and actually need less food to stay lean and healthy.

When leaving pets alone, beware some winter snow hazards—large drifts sliding of your roof, big piles that allow escape over a fence, etc.

Finally, dehydration can happen in winter, too. Access to warm water, indoors and out, is essential to pet health.

Since both dogs and cats are at risk of viruses that can give them their own “colds” or worse (especially if you’re boarding them while traveling), consider sharing a few drops of immune support from colloidal silver in your water bowl.

Do your pets love or hate snow? Tell us about it in the comments!

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